...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Whisky #501: Highland Park 18 year old

After a review of a whisky that probably can't be had here's a whisky that probably can be had! Yes, there are a dozen of the classics that I need to review or re-review someday.  But I have this one right on hand.  And it's good.

Highland Park 18 aka The Good All 'Rounder aka F. Paul Pacult's Honeybaby aka Damn, Remember When This Cost Only $XX!  Well, I indeed found a bottle at its three-years-ago price and brought it to the tasting I led for the OC Scotch Club last week.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation: rumored to be 45% first fill sherry and 55% refill sherry casks, mostly European oak
Age: minimum 18 years
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfilltered? Probably.
Colored? Probably not, since both the man in the fedora and the man in the bothy say HP doesn't
Bottle code: see below, may be a 2010 bottling

Tasting Notes:


Color -- Rosy gold

Nose -- It starts out with orange sherbet, roses, and hints of peach candy.  While there's definitely sherry the mix, it isn't grapey sugary, rather it's something drier and mellow.  Then toasted walnuts and a peppery peat.  After some time, notes of smoky prunes and salted caramel ice cream come out.

Palate -- Lightly sweet and malty.  Much more European oak / Oloroso sherry showing through.  Dried berries and grape juice.  Lots of milk chocolate and toffee.  Dried apricots and a gentle herbal bitterness.  Peat is in the waaaaaaay back.  Yeah it's "heathery" if heather was smothered in toffee.

Finish -- Hints of smoke and malt mixed with larger notes of dried berries and milk chocolate.  A little bit of a peppery zing.  A burst of sherry arrives retronasally.

WITH WATER (~40%abv):

Nose -- All of the neat notes merge together and get a little blurry, though the sherry feels louder.  More tobacco, less fruit.

Palate -- A little more herbal and bitter, in a good way.  Less sweetness.  Dried cherries and a hint of sherry.  The texture goes watery, though.

Finish -- Very dry sherry now, along with a hint of wasabi.  Some salt and dried grass.

Verdict:  Much better when neat.


Somehow I keep forgetting how very reliable HP's age-stated whiskies always are.  The 12, 15, and 18 are unerringly solid, each with their character.  The 18yo is the most graceful of the trio and the most luxurious feeling in nature.  The sherry element is good, but much more restrained and a better team player than in Macallan (HP's Edrington mate).  There's peat, but it's a quiet thing.  Meanwhile, the whisky is loaded with well-matured malt notes.

Would I like this at 46%abv and unfiltered?  Of course.  It seems to hit a wall at 43%abv, and begins to crumble at 40%.  But since HP bottles many of their products at 40%abv in Europe, I guess we should be glad they didn't do so with this one.

Once upon a time, this whisky was a no-doubter.  But then economics had to come along and spoil the fun.  In 2007, the average US price was $75.  As of today, it's around $135.  That's an 80% increase (versus 15% inflation) in eight years and that's a chasm many of its fans (including this one) hesitate to leap.  Still, considering that Macallan 18 is now $235, HP18 almost looks like a bargain.  But it's not.  I'd still buy it over Mac 18 if they were the same price, and I happily recommend it over Mac 18 any day to anyone who has that kind of walkaround money.  And if you can find it for under $100, that's even better.

Availability - Most liquor specialists and even the occasional corner liquor
Pricing - $100-$150